1: This week, we’ve been exploring takeaways from Esther Choy and her book Let the Story Do the Work: The Art of Storytelling for Business Success.
Today, we focus on putting these lessons to work.
For any presentation or conversation where we want to persuade, we start with the action we want to happen. “Truth be told, the ending—the takeaway—is most important,” Esther tells us. We ask ourselves: “If my audience remembers nothing else about my story, what would I hope he or she takes away?”
Knowing the desired outcome is essential not only because it gives our story a purpose but also helps us “trim story details, a task most people, even experienced storytellers, find challenging,” Esther tells us.
We ask: After listening to my presentation, my goal is for my audience to remember _________. Esther recommends no more than three major points expressed in 10 or fewer words each.
2: The opening, or Act I, is about acknowledging our audience’s current situation and looking for a shared experience before ending with a hook. What is the makeup of the audience? What are the most pressing challenges my audience is currently facing outside of my topic? What keeps them up at night? Then: What does our audience need to know and feel to take the action we desire?
When we are pitching an idea, we choose a “shared experience” based on a character trait which will focus on our ability to make things happen, writes Esther. For example, if we are fundraising, we select “a shared experience that can easily be broadened to underscore the importance of giving to [our] cause, company, or project.”
We end Act I with a hook, which raises our audience’s curiosity and desire to know more. “A good storyteller knows how to balance the provision of clarity, or giving his audience exactly what they want, and the arousal of curiosity, or prompting them to wonder about important areas that they may not realize are important,” Esther writes.
Act II describes “the journey through which we overcame the main challenge,” Esther instructs. What difficulties did we face? What actions did we take to overcome the obstacles? Did anyone help or hinder us along the way?
“Shaping this section for each audience will have to do with what [we] want to persuade them of at the end,” notes Esther. For example, “When we’re meeting a potential client, we “choose a story that can move from personal to persuasive . . . illustrating the value [we] would bring to this client.”
In Act III, we deliver the resolution. What does this journey mean to them and to us? What are the main takeaways?
In an interview, we wrap up by highlighting how the story we have told makes us a good fit for the position, Esther explains. If we are pitching an idea, we “show how this story illustrates [our] ability to deliver.” If we are fundraising, we broaden our “story and apply it to the importance of supporting [our] venture. If we are seeking new clients, we “talk about the value [we] bring them.”
3: Once we’ve crafted our story, Esther recommends sharing it with a colleague or friend. “Ask them to put themselves in the shoes of your actual audience,” she writes. She suggests asking the following questions to see if we are on track:
What info do you recall from my story?
How does my story make you feel?
After listening to my story, what questions do you have for me?
We ask for feedback, refine, and “repeat the process until [we] run out of ideas to improve [our] story, or out of time, or both,” notes Esther.
Reflection: Consider a current situation where I want to be persuasive. How can I use Esther’s storytelling principles to influence them?
Action: Do it.